I have loved money for as long as I can remember but, sometimes, I really dislike capitalism. What’s happening in the stock market is a good reminder of why I’ll never be a billionaire, because I won’t do whatever it takes for money.
There is an adorable (yes, I’m calling myself adorable) photo of me at a wedding with a bow on my headband, circa 1976. I had removed the bow off a wedding present for my aunt. I am told a wedding guest admired that bow and that I had sold the bow to her for a quarter. This positive reinforcement led me to selling many more bows that day. Everyone had a good laugh, but it was only cute because I was a kid. People applauded my entrepreneurial spirit; but sadly, I was being rewarded for taking and selling someone else’s property.
Fast forward a couple decades and I found myself receiving stock options back in the heyday of the high-tech boom, rewarding me for my long hours. Having to learn what options were, got me into buying more stocks, and also day trading. To this day though, I have never shorted a stock.
Perhaps it is because I am a creative person and I believe that we should build and not tear down. Capitalists tell us it’s OK to make money as long as it’s legal. Shorting stock is legal. I’d even say it’s moral if you don’t have the means or insider information to actually cause a stock to crash and burn.
Regardless, I need to be clear that the stock market is akin to gambling. No one knows if a stock is going to go up or down, unless they are insider trading. That means you should only invest what you can afford to lose. I once thought that blue chip stocks were safe, until Nortel devastated my retirement portfolio with corporate fraud. To this day I don’t think anyone went to jail for their actions.
This is another reason why I lose faith in capitalism, because the one per cent get away with executive bonuses after, say, causing a world recession. Who got hurt? All of the rest of us at the middle to bottom of the pyramid.
Back to last week, shorting stock means that you are betting on the company to fail and that the stock price will decline. Betting that something will fail is one thing, it is quite another when you actively make a company implode with a co-ordinated buying and selling shell game.
I have no respect for people who make money from destroying what others have built. I’m not saying that if you have a career in demolition that you are a demon, but I am saying that it takes a certain kind of sociopathic evil to actively drive a company into the ground simply so that you can make a buck or two million from it.
This past week, and I’m continuing to simplify here, a blog decided that they also didn’t like this practice and chose to play Robin Hood, by buying up certain stocks that were targeted for short selling, including GameStop, thus driving the stock up exponentially. This means the ne’er-do-wells who were trying to short the stock will end up losing their shirts, because they have to buy the stock at a significantly higher price than they “paid” for it.
Being a lover of the underdog (Funny I wrote underdoge the first time — anyone following crypto-currency?) I applaud Robin Hood, taking from the one per cent and redistributing it to people lower down the food chain. Sadly, some of the later to the party merry men will also lose money, like the bottom of a Ponzi scheme, but I’m all for sticking it to Goliath.
Capitalism doesn’t work when there is a huge wealth inequality; when people who lie, steal, and cheat for a profit are protected by governments with our tax dollars. Capitalism doesn’t work with corporations focused on financial gains without accounting for their harm to our people and the planet. Capitalism (and democracy) doesn’t work when corporations are puppeteers in government. We built a separation of church and state into our systems, and we need to add a separation of corporation as well. We need a moral, sustainable capitalism. Call me Maid Marian.